A community running group which welcomes members of all ages and abilities is changing people's lives, and in some cases saving them.

Mike Bullock and his partner Susan set up Spider Runners in Fairfield in August last year and the group has since grown to more than 2,000 members.

Mike explained: "I’m not a natural runner, but when I hit 30, like many people who realise their health has deteriorated, I took up running. Initially under the cover of darkness, at 18 stone I felt hugely self-conscious about what people may think, but I stuck to it and joined a local running club, where I met lots of like-minded people.

The Comet: Monica Cullin is 80 and a member of Fairfield's Spider RunnersMonica Cullin is 80 and a member of Fairfield's Spider Runners (Image: Spider Runners)

"I lost five stone and developed into a decent standard club runner, but then I had a serious back injury and couldn’t exercise for a year.

"My surgeon told me I’d never run another step in my life and it felt like my whole support structure had evaporated.

"This led to depression and weight gain, but I was incredibly fortunate that my running friends took me out for walks on beautiful countryside trails.

"Through the support I had, my mental health improved and I set myself goals to get back to running, which I did, and it honestly saved my life."

Mike, now 52, has since completed 74 marathons and 71 ultra marathons.

He said the running club community has become increasingly focussed on speed and performance, so he has set up a club with Susan that offers support to "people who will never be fast, but who just want to improve their health and mental wellbeing, or just run socially to meet new friends".

The Comet: Bex Fieldmouse is a member of Spider Runners and recovering from bowel cancerBex Fieldmouse is a member of Spider Runners and recovering from bowel cancer (Image: Spider Runners)

He said: "We spoke to different demographics who felt excluded from running clubs - different ethnicities, disabilities, older people, people with families who struggle to fit exercise into their lives."

Spider Runners offers activities such as trail runs, mental health walks, family scavenger hunts, fun challenges and a mentoring programme, as well as getting involved in parkruns and supporting various charities.

Member Bex Fieldmouse, a teacher, is recovering from bowel cancer, having had emergency surgery last year, and she continued running while having chemotherapy.

"I didn't go far and I didn't go fast," she said, "but it helped me physically and mentally."

Member Monica Cullin is 80 years old and said: "It's the best thing I've ever done in my life."

She has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a bad hip and depression. She said: "I swear that if I didn't have my running, I might not be here. Honestly, it's my lifesaver.

"I go out for a run and I feel quite different when I get back. It's good for your mind, it's good for your body. What more do you want?"

For more about Spider Runners, visit facebook.com/groups/298421748244777.